Political House Cleaning at Telavi University in East Georgia
Georgian legislation on higher requires that the administration of institutions are to treat all staff equally regardless of their political view. Despite the legal requirements, Giorgi Gotsiridze, rector of Telavi Iakob Gogebashvili State University, refuses to accept Archil Jorjadze back to the university. The professor was dismissed from his job based on what is perceived to be political grounds and this would consequently be a violation the acting law. “I will not accept him back and that’s all there is to be said. This person has bothered me, and even if I wanted to restore him to his position of the coordinator of the Law Faculty, I cannot because that department has been since abolished,” explained the rector of the university. However, he employed his relatives in the university as lecturers it is also claimed by various sources that the rector bases salaries of employees according to their personal faith and obedience to him.
Hamlet Razmadze, the head of the University Administration dismissed Archil Jorjadze, former coordinator of the Law Faculty, from the university on May 22, 2008, which was the next day after the parliamentary elections. Razmadze’s resolution stated that Jorjadze had left the job base his personal letter of resignation.
Archil Jorjadze had earlier petitioned to the head of the administration on May 13, 2008 with various concerns. He explained that the “parliamentary elections campaign is being held under serious conditions of terror and repression. In addition, he claimed that fundamental human rights guaranteed by the Georgian Constitution and international law were being severely violation and how contracted employees had been terminated from their positions. “Human dignity has been disregarded and furthermore people do not have right to independently develop themselves. I, as a member and lawyer of the election HQ of the United Opposition-National Council, New Rights, am being psychologically oppressed and blackmailed. Consequently, I petition you to accept my resignation from my position in order to avoid further problems for the university, and its administration because of my continued presence there,” wrote Jorjadze.
On the same day, Giorgi Gotsiridze, the rector of the university, received another petition from Neli Tskitishvili, PR manager of the University and head of the rector’s office. Tskitishvili also complains about experiencing persecution on political grounds.
Lawyers define both petitions could act as basis for launching administrative investigation based on the Article 76 paragraph “A” of the Georgian General Administrative Code. Thus, all circumstances mentioned in the petitions should have been fully investigated.
“The head of the university administration was to study what kind of political oppression was imposed on Archil Jorjadze and Neli Tskitishvili. Article 16 Paragraph “d” of the Georgian Law on High Education, administration of the institution shall treat all lecturers equally and this regardless their political views. If a person is compelled to cancel labor contract with his or her employer based on political grounds, the fact shall be discussed as being crime as it is envisaged under Article 156 of the Georgian Criminal Code. Consequently, the head of the administration was not authorized to dismiss Jorjadze and Tskitishvili from university without having first studied the situation.
According to the Article 83 of the General Administrative Code the head of the administration had to demand the petitioners to provide additional evidence as to the claimed repression; the administration had to study whether the lecturers had freely made their decision to resign from their positions at the university. If additional materials were not provided with the petitions then the decision should not have been reached. However, if the fact of political persecution was proved, according to the Article 263 paragraph I of the Criminal Code, the head of the administration was to send those case materials to the law enforcement body in order to launch a preliminary investigation as to the possibility,” stated the recommendation of the Georgian Public Defender who has prepared materials based on the appeal of the former employees of the Telavi University.
The recommendation also indicates that “there was not any legal basis for the dismissal of Neli Tskitishvili. She was MP candidate of the Georgian Parliament because she was on the election list of the United Opposition-National Council, New Rights. Based on the Article 101 of the Election Code of Georgia an MP candidate is granted with unpaid holiday from the place of work. According to the Article 36 Paragraph I of the Labor Code of Georgia, suspension of the labor contract means temporary unemployment though it does not envisage the cancellation of the employment agreement. According to the Article 36 Paragraph II “I” of the Labor Code, unpaid holiday is a basis for suspension of labor agreement. According top the Article 36 Paragraph VI of the Labor Code, employment agreement shall not be canceled while the labor activities are suspended. Consequently, Neli Tskitishvili was not authorized to request that her employment agreement be cancelled only that it be suspended and held in abeyance during the election campaign. The head of the University Administration was not authorized to satisfy her request. Employment agreement could be cancelled only after the leave of absence had ended. Neli Tskitishvili’s petition was dated May 8, 2008 when pre-election campaign was under still underway and the employees of the institute of higher education were still out for a leave of absence.”
The Public Defender was to send this document to the head of the university administration; however, the Ombudsman did not appeal the administrative decision where restore Jorjadze and Tskitishvili were not restored to their former positions.
Archil Jorjadze claims that reason for Public Defender’s inattention was close relationship between him and rector of the university who had worked together at the non-governmental organization “Liberty Institute,” and this had some bearing on the decision not to take the conflict resolution to the next stage.
Nino Eremashvili, the head of information department within the Public Defender’s Office, reported that a recommendation was prepared at their office regarding the fact. However, in the end the Ombudsman finally decided to submit the documents to the prosecutor’s office. Five months have passed since the recommendation was prepared and representatives of the Prosecutor General’s office state they have not received any materials in the matter of Jorjadze and Tskitishvili’s cases.
Before the Parliamentary elections on May 21, 2008 university administration offered Archil Jorjadze a promotion in his position. In exchange, he would have had to not be involved in the pre-election campaign of Pikria Chikhradze, a single mandate candidate of the Telavi district from United Opposition and the New Rights. Jorjadze turned down the offer but made several statements regarding his alleged oppression. Nevertheless the prosecutor’s office did not take an interest in his complaints.
Despite terminating the demands of the legislation, the rector of the Telavi State University still refuses to accept Archil Jorjadze back to a position at the university. “I will not accept him and that is all that is to be said. This person has bothered me. Even though I wanted to receive him back I have no place for him to work. The position of the coordinator of the law faculty has been abolished at the university,” stated Gotsiridze. He added that Telavi’s district court did not satisfy Jorjadze’s suit requesting that he be restored him to the former old position and for the reimbursement of salary arrears. Judge Natela Jashiashvili discussed the case within civil law and did not study the termination of the demands of the administrative code.
Nevertheless, Giorgi Gotsiridze employs and promotes his own relatives. His brother, Paata Gotsiridze was appointed as a lawyer for the university. The rector appointed his close relative, Vakho Zuroshvili as the director of the university warehouse. His wife, Keti Gigashvili was granted with the status of associated professor and occupies the position of the director of Scientific Research Department at the same university.
One part of professors, who want to keep their names anonymous, states that the rector estimates the salaries of the employees according to how faithful and obedient they are. Lecturers claim that Gotsiridze has also increased the salaries but only for those employees whom he closely trusts.
The Human Rights Centre contacted the rector of the Telavi State University who suggested us to call the head of the administration. The Human Rights Centre requested public information on the salaries of the lecturers and the university personnel. However the head of the administration replied that “in order to answer your questions we will have to consider various documents, and how this process will take at least ten days.”
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